APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Biofuel production
- Paper pulping
- Specialty chemicals
- Economical degradation of cellulose
- Fast acting
- Readily brought to industrial scale
- Increased stability at higher temperatures (i.e., at 80 °C)
- Enzymes function in highly acidic (pH ~2) environment
Berkeley Lab researchers Steven Yannone and Adam Barnebey have developed a technology enabling Sulfolobus solfataricus, an extremophilic archaeal microbe that grows naturally in thermal pools, to produce acid- and heat-resistant enzymes for efficient degradation of cellulose for biofuels or bio-based chemicals production. In contrast to alternative systems that employ genetically engineered mesophilic bacteria to produce acid and heat stable enzymes, the Berkeley Lab recombinant expression system results in secreted, glycosylated cellulases that are stable and soluble in dilute sulfuric acid at elevated temperatures (80 °C).
Using a series of gene manipulation methods, the team has developed a readily scalable process that uses genetically engineered Sulfolobus to yield industrial quantities of these durable naturally occurring enzymes. When combined with heat and acid pretreatments for cellulose, they can speed the degradation process, saving time and energy, increasing the efficiency and cost effectiveness of biofuels.
Although the system is currently optimized for cellulose degradation for biofuels production, the same methods can be readily applied to other industrial processes requiring high heat and acid, such as paper pulping and production of certain specialty chemicals. In addition to increased yields of naturally occurring cellulases, the Sulfolobus system can be used to produce high volumes “artificially evolved’’ cellulases and other enzymes for industrial processes and commercial applications.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Bench scale prototype
STATUS: Published U. S. Patent Application #14/646,673. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
SEE THESE OTHER BERKELEY LAB TECHNOLOGIES IN THIS FIELD:
REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-3106